If there’s one positive thing that’s come out of this quarantine, it’s that it has brought out the creativity in people. As everything from school and work to travel have been cancelled and events rescheduled, it has been interesting to see how people have learned to adapt and evolve. Amidst the need to accepted refunds for some conferences and cancel hotel reservations, I was cautiously optimistic about Sweet Suite, an event I’ve been attending almost annually since 2009. When the virtual trade show doors opened a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t ready for what was on the other side. It was a digital version of what I’ve come to know and love all these years. Not only did they provide opportunities to connect with the brands, check out new games and toys, but they went so far as to make the avatars look like the brand reps. I would walk up to a booth and could click through to learn more about the company or the items then engage with them via chat or Zoom. Each had their own ways to connect with attendees and it was actually a lot of fun. I wasn’t able to touch and play with items on display, but a box arrived last week with an assortment of what was on virtual display. Here’s some of the things you should keep watch for as you start working on your holiday shopping lists.
Start your shopping list with Board Games
I’m a huge advocate for incorporating board games into everyday life. They’re entertaining, educational and improve social skills. Whether it’s a party game like Hues and Cues for up to 10 players and a variety of ages or one that you can play solo, there’s something out there for everyone. I had the opportunity to chat with Buffalo Games and discuss their new Apollo science-based game and look forward to giving it a try. Pokemon Battle Academy Board Game is another one I’ve heard a lot of buzz about over the past couple of months so it was cool to get the scoop about it. It’s basically a training ground to step players into playing more advanced trading card battle games. Goliath has a variety of games for all ages including some escape room games they’re sending our way to test out.
Fill your cart with Blind Bags
Whether you plan to put them inside a stocking or wrap up, be sure to stock up on a variety of blind bags. Appease the kids on your shopping list with their favorite characters from Calico Critters (Epoch) or Scooby-Doo (Playmobil). Bonkers Toy Company offers Trinity and Beyond charms while Moose Toys continues to delight with a variety of figures including their OH! My GIF line.
Incorporate Toys and Games into Learning
Don’t be afraid to let your kids play online by introducing them to edutainment like Adventure Academy. While they think they’re playing, you’ll know their adventures are tapping into reading comprehension, writing, spelling and language development. You can take learning offline with toys and science kits from Fat Brain Toys.
Can’t go wrong with Crafts, Plush and Puzzles
We’re huge puzzle fanatics so you already know how I feel about getting puzzles as gifts. Whether it’s a colorful Kodak puzzle from Cra-Z-Art or an educational anatomy puzzle, they’re classic offline entertainment. Maybe it’s just me, but timeless entertainment like on-the-go bubbles from Little Kids, Inc. and markers (especially novelty XL poster markers!) are items that every kid should have. I would be remiss if I didn’t say how excited I am that a new generation gets to experience Blue’s Clues. I suspect these will be among the hottest toys this upcoming holiday season primarily due to the nostalgia. And speaking of nostalgia… don’t miss out out the Pound Puppies Newborns and Slinky!
Inspire imaginative play with Toys, Playsets and Action Figures
If your kids are fans of Hatchimals, StickBot, Beyblade or Roblox then they’re in for a treat with the assortment of blind back and action sets. Look for these and other product lines from Hasbro, Jazwares, Zing Toys and Spin Master at your local mass merchandiser or save yourself the lines by shopping for them on Amazon. Also check out Gogo Gachas, Secret Crush minis and Playful Pandas, three new (to me) toys that look like a lot of fun!
Sweet Suite at Home wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I allocated a couple hours to visit the exhibitors, but once I arrived I didn’t want to leave. Whether I was learning about new products from Nintendo or playing online games, I could have spent a couple of days roaming around the digital playground. Be sure to follow along each Friday as The Toy Insider hosts Twitter parties sharing details about many of these products and brands and giving away prizes, too!
What toys and games are on your kids’ wish lists?